Tuesday, November 25

Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 4

In the continuation of this series, you'll learn more about Fred Hawkins and his experiences with golf legend Ben Hogan. Read Part 1Part 2 and Part 3.

WHEN FRED HAWKINS TOOK A BREAK from the PGA Tour, or was preparing to go back out there, he often practiced with the most feared player on the circuit—Ben Hogan.

Fred Hawkins and Ben Hogan
at Colonial in 1959.
“I played a number of practice rounds with [Hogan],” Hawkins said, “because I lived in El Paso at that time, when he wasn’t playing very often. And he’d always ask me to come down to Fort Worth a couple of days early so he’d get a little competition [and] practice that way. And we’d play $5 Nassau, a normal game back in those days. It doesn’t sound like much now, but it was a pretty good game.”

Hawkins held his own against the legend.

“I beat him a lot of times,” Hawkins said. “He liked to have some competition before the tournament.”

Hogan was always tinkering, according to Hawkins, as was most everybody else who played golf for a living.

“Nobody gets their game going a certain way and says now I have it. I’m playing this way from now on. That doesn’t happen, if you really know anything about golf. The top players are making continuous adjustments. They may get it for a few days or weeks, and hold on to it even a little longer than that, where everything is working nice. And all of a sudden, nothing is working out right. You’re still trying to do the same things, but you’re not. 

“That’s why some of these coaches are quite an advantage to the modern day players. We never had them.

“But Hogan was always trying out something different. It sounds stupid to say that for a guy of his caliber, but that’s just the nature of the game. Everybody is making adjustments all the time.

“If they get something that will work good for a week, that’s part of the reason why you have so many different winners each week. That, plus the fact you can hit good shots and they may not work out well. Good shots may be going too far or too short, particularly back in those days.”

* * *

Golf courses were also vastly different in those earlier days.

“As much change as there’s been with the equipment in golf,” Hawkins said, “there’s probably been just as huge of an improvement in the condition of the courses—outside of playing occasionally good courses for the National Open, but even their fairways weren’t like they are today at all. The ball would nestle down in.”

Gauging distance was guesswork. The game was played by intuition and feel.

“The bulk of our tournaments that we played on the regular tour, they used to have signs, 150 yards, 100 yards. They took all those signs out before the tournament. There weren’t sprinkler heads marked for distance. Until Jack Nicklaus came along and started stepping off all his shots and distances, the game was entirely different. The fairways generally were not very good and neither were the greens for the bulk of our tournaments.”

Next time: More practice banter about Ben Hogan.

Other Installments:
Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 1
Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 2
Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 3

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